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It's really impossible to say. On the one hand, there have been no successful attacks on the US since 2001. But there have been attacks elsewhere. Also, we can't be sure that the lack of successful attacks is due to the war on terrorism. It might be luck, it might be that terrorists have other plans. We just can't know.
Al-Qaida has suffered a great deal of setbacks, and has lost a number of important leaders as well as secure bases for operation. I completely agree with the first response, though, it is impossible to tell whether the war has been successful in the sense that it has made people safer. Another issue I would raise is whether our conduct of the war on terror hasn't created more enemies for the United States than it has eliminated.
Most questions about issues with this level of complexity and number of interrelated contributing factors can't be objectively evaluated and assessed until a significant period of time has elapsed after the end of the issue being addressed. There is simply no way of evaluating the "success" or "lack of success" of the international war on terrorism while it is ongoing. The above posts have presented some of the realities that complicate the determination.
I agree with the above posters but would like to add one more thing. The "War on Terror" itself is not clearly defined. What actions are truly part of the war on terror? Is the war in Iraq a part of that or a separate issue? A lot of these are hot button political issues with no clear answer. When who is fighting and how and where and why is unclear, it is almost impossible to judge the success of the efforts.
If this is a class assignment, I suggest taking one side or another and backing it up. It most certainly can be argued either way.
That is a large and difficult question to address. If we're just talking about al-Qaeda, it has been stunningly successful. The intelligence networks we've established across the Middle East are truly formidable, night and day from what they were on 9/11. We have infiltrated al-Qaeda itself, as evidenced by the latest underwear bomber case. Predator drone strikes, while controversial, have been instrumental and effective at decimating Taliban and al-Qaeda leadership.
Their financial network of support has been greatly strained and at least made inconvenient for them, and we have much better cooperation with our allies than in years past. But as long as the conditions which contribute to terrorism remain, it is not a "war" we can win outright. The best we can do is keep them off balance.
I think the two, big questions are these...
- Did the 2003 invasion of Iraq lead directly to the Arab Spring?
- And if 'yes', will the Arab Spring be a triumph for secular democracy or islamic oppression?
America's attempt to build a pro-western, democratic society in Iraq was always going to be a flop. It was badly planned by ignorant people. The invasion of Iraq, in isolation, was a hugely, expensive failure which only served Iran (nb. when I say 'expensive', I am obviously referring to the cost in human lives, not the 100s of billions of dollars Dick Cheney gave to his mates.) I never supported the Iraq war, mainly due to the casual incompetence of the Bush administration, who clearly did not understand the wider issues. But... did the invasion accidently provoke the Arab Spring? And... is the Arab Spring a force for good, or a slide into barbaric Islamic totalitarianism?
Well, the first, serious Egyptian presidential elections were held this weekend (as anyone with even a tiny interest in politics knows) And it's going to go to a second round . The two finalists... The Muslim Brotherhood vs. a stalwart of the old Mubarak regime... not very promising.
If the Arab Spring leads to stable, long-term democracy, then all GWB has to do is make the link between it and the War on Terror and he'll go down in history as a far-sighted genius. (which would be one hell of a turn-around.)
For the United States at least, I'd have to say that the war has been successful, because we haven't had any major attacks since 9-11. Of course, you have to consider the cost of two wars, lives lost, no-fly list controversy, etc. Other parts of the world haven't been as fortunate.
You mention the war in Iraq, but former President Bush instigated that war in the hope that he would find weapons of mass destruction there. None were found, and there was never prior proof that any existed. The U.S. presence in Afghanistan, however, has proven to be at least somewhat successful, rooting out Osama Bin Laden and destroying most of the old line Al Quaeda. As for the war in Iraq, it was an unnecessary invasion, based primarily on Bush's desire to get even with Saddam Hussein, who had previously put out a bounty on the first President Bush; and to establish a pro-U.S. government.
Like other posters, I have to agree that it might be too early to gauge the current level of success. While the U.S. has captured and killed many of the leaders of terrorism networks, more cells of those networks have sprung up in countries such as Yemen, and Pakistan has proved what many already knew--that they are not fully committed to a war on terrorism. Our relationship with them and several other countries is more tenuous that it was before the war.
However, the success of the war on terrorism depends on one's perspective. If you are Kurdish--like some of my students--then the war in Iraq freed them of a terrorist (Sadaam Hussein), and if you're a women living in Afghanistan, then you might also see the war on terrorism as freeing you from Taliban terror (of course, this is dependent on which part of Afghanistan you live in).
The problem with the word "success" is that the war on terrorism was not begun to free the Kurds or Afghan women from oppression; so those outcomes will most likely not be linked to the success or failure of the war.
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